Meal and Rest Periods for Public Healthcare Workers Now Guaranteed
Published: October 5, 2022
Healthcare workers are experiencing a significant amount of occupational fatigue, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Expecting nurses to work lengthy shifts without the chance to eat a meal or rest leads to exhaustion and can increase the likelihood of medical errors. State senator Steven Bradford authored SB 1334, which sought to guarantee meal and rest periods for public healthcare workers. The bill was sponsored by the California Nurses Association (“CNA”), which has 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California. On September 29, 2022, Governor Newsom signed SB 1334 into law, which adds section 512.1 to the California Labor Code.
In general, California’s Labor Code has not been found to cover public sector employees unless explicitly stated. Labor Code section 512, the provision on meal periods, does not state that it applies to public employees and has been held to not apply to public employees. (Labor Code §512; Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage Dist. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 729, 730.) Further, Wage Order 4 (which covers professionals including nurses and provides a 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked) was held to not apply to those working for the Regents of the University of California. (Gomez v. Regents of University of California (2021) 63 Cal.App.5th 386, 386.)
Labor Code Section 512.1
Employees who provide direct patient care or support direct patient care in a general acute care hospital, clinic, or public health setting directly employed by specified public sector employers (the state, political subdivisions of the state, counties, municipalities, and the Regents of the University of California) are entitled to:
- One unpaid 30-minute meal period on shifts over 5 hours and a 2nd unpaid 30-minute meal period on shifts over 10 hours, as provided by specified existing law; and
- A rest period based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of 10 minutes net rest time per 4 hours or major fraction thereof, as provided by specified existing law.
Employees may waive meal periods and agree to on-duty meal periods, where allowed by existing law. If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period or rest period in accordance with section 512.1, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest period is not provided.
Employees who are covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that provides for meal and rest periods are exempt from Labor Code section 512.1.
Public sector employers who employ individuals who provide direct patient care or support direct patient care in a general acute care hospital, clinic, or public health setting should immediately implement policies and procedures to ensure they are providing meal and rest periods in compliance with the California Labor Code, specifically Labor Code section 512.1. Reach out to the Weintraub Tobin employment attorneys to help you establish the proper policies, procedures, and employee training.